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Betty White

Betty Marion White (born January 17, 1922) is a film and television actress with a career spanning 60 years. White is perhaps best known for her close association with the game show, Password, her affiliation with animal charities (Actors and Others for Animals), and her roles in the television sitcoms The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mama's Family and The Golden Girls, as well as being a regular panelist on the popular 1970s game show Match Game.


Personal life

White was born in Oak Park, Illinois, the daughter of Tess, a homemaker, and Horace White, a traveling salesman and electrical engineer. She was raised in Los Angeles, California. White attended Horace Mann Middle School in Beverly Hills, California, and then went to Beverly Hills High School in Beverly Hills, California, where she graduated in 1939.

She is a life-long member of the Democratic Party, and has contributed more than $9,000 to various Democratic political candidates and organizations, including Diane Feinstein and John Kerry.


Before embarking on her television career, White found work modeling. She launched her television career with her portrayal of Elizabeth from 1953 to 1955. The show, which she also co-produced, garnered White her first Emmy Award nomination. Following Life with Elizabeth, she appeared as Vicki Angel on the sitcom Date with the Angels from 1957 to 1958. In 1954, she briefly hosted her own talk show entitled The Betty White Show (not to be confused with her 1970s sitcom of the same name).

She made her film debut as Kansas Senator Elizabeth Ames Adams in the 1962 drama Advise and Consent.

White made many appearances on the hit game show Password as a guest celebrity from 1961 through 1975. She married the show's host, Allen Ludden. She subsequently appeared on the show's three updated versions Password Plus , Super Password, and Million Dollar Password, having been on versions of the game with five different hosts (Ludden, Cullen, Kennedy, Convy, and Philbin).

White also made frequent game show appearances on What's My Line? (starting in 1955), To Tell the Truth (in 1961 and in 1990), I've Got a Secret (in 1972-73), Match Game (1973-1982) and Pyramid (starting in 1982). Both Password and Pyramid were created by White's friend, Bob Stewart. In 1983, she became the first woman to win a Daytime Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Game Show Host, for the NBC entry Just Men!. Due to the amount of work she has done on them, she has been deemed the "First Lady of Game Shows."

In 1973, White landed her signature role as the sardonic, man-hungry Sue Ann Nivens, The Happy Homemaker, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The running gag was that Sue Ann's hard-edged private personality was the complete opposite of how she presented herself on her show. "We need somebody sickeningly sweet, like Betty White," Moore herself suggested at a production meeting, with the result of casting White. White won two Emmy Awards for her role in the hugely popular series.

Following that show's end in 1977, she was given her own sitcom on CBS, The Betty White Show, during the 1977-78 season, in which she co-starred with John Hillerman and (former Mary Tyler Moore co-star) Georgia Engel. It was canceled after one season.

1980s - 2000s

From 1983 through 1985, she played Ellen Harper Jackson on the series Mama's Family, along with future Golden Girls co-star Rue McClanahan. When Mama's Family was picked up in syndication after being canceled by NBC in 1985, White left the show (with the exception of one final appearance in the show's syndicated version in 1986) and scored a memorable role as the ditzy St. Olaf, Minnesota, native Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls. The series chronicled the lives of four widowed/divorced women in their "golden age" who shared a home in Miami. The Golden Girls, which also starred Beatrice Arthur, Estelle Getty, and Rue McClanahan, was immensely successful and ran from 1985 through 1992. White won an Emmy Award, for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series, for the first season of The Golden Girls and was nominated every year of the show's run. When Beatrice Arthur left in 1992, White, McClanahan and Getty reprised their roles Rose, Blanche and Sophia in the spin-off The Golden Palace. The series was short-lived, lasting one season.

White was originally offered the role of Blanche in The Golden Girls and Rue McClanahan was offered the role of Rose (the two characters being similar to roles they had played in Mary Tyler Moore and Maude respectively) but decided to switch in fear of being typecast. White was originally scared to play the role of Rose, feeling that she would not be able to play the role, until the show's creator took her aside and told her not to play Rose as stupid, but to play her as someone "terminally naive, a person who always believed the first explanation of something."

After The Golden Palace was canceled, White guest-starred on a number of television programs including Ally McBeal, The Ellen Show, My Wife and Kids, That 70s Show, Everwood, Joey, and Malcolm in the Middle. She received Emmy Award nominations for her appearances on Suddenly Susan, Yes, Dear and The Practice. She won an Emmy in 1996 for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, appearing as herself on a memorable episode of The John Larroquette Show. In that episode, titled "Here We Go Again", a spoof on Sunset Boulevard, a diva-like White convinces Larroquette to help write her memoirs. In one bit, Golden Girls co-stars McClanahan and Getty appear as themselves. Larroquette is forced to dress in drag as Beatrice Arthur, when all four appear in public as the "original" cast members. White comically envisions her Rose as the central character with the other cast members as mere supporting players.

The actress has lent her voice to several cartoons including The Simpsons, King of the Hill, The Wild Thornberrys, and Family Guy.

In December 2006, White joined the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful in the role of Ann Douglas, the long-lost mother of the show's matriarch Stephanie Forrester, who is played by Susan Flannery. In February 2007, White returned as Ann, who had an intent to move to L.A. to be near her daughters. The characters of Ann and Pamela Douglas (Alley Mills) disappeared after their March 27, 2007 appearance and were not mentioned again until October 19, 2007 when Ann appeared briefly. White would go onto appear in two more episodes following that, one on December 10, 2007 and the other on August 28, 2008. To date she has made 17 appearances as Ann Douglas.

On the April 22, 2007 airing of The 2007 TV Land Awards, White starred in a parody of "Ugly Betty", aptly titled Ugly Betty White, in which she played America Ferrera's title character, with Charo playing Betty's sister Hilda and Erik Estrada playing her father Ignacio. Due to her performance as Ugly Betty White, the producers of Ugly Betty signed White to play herself as the victim of Wilhelmina Slater's temper as they both vie for a cab in the episode Bananas for Betty, which aired December 6, 2007.

White also has had a recurring role in ABC's Boston Legal as the calculating, blackmailing gossip-monger Catherine Piper, a role she originally portrayed as a guest star on The Practice.

Betty White appeared as a roaster on the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner.

On May 19th, 2008, Betty White appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, taking part in the host's "Mary Tyler Moore Show" reunion special alongside every single surviving cast member of the series.

White returned to Password in its latest incarnation, Million Dollar Password, on June 12,2008, participating in the Million Dollar challenge at the end of the show. Her quick correct responses helped the contestant win $100,000.

White has made a number of appearances in skits on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, playing the part of an Exxon representative, an accountant with a briefcase full of cocaine, and a nurse who just got her medical license from El Salvador. She also appeared as herself with a shoe box full of receipts, explaining that she was doing her taxes. On July 18, 2008 she also appeared on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno in a skit entitled "Can You Make Betty White Flinch".

In the summer of 2008, Betty White began filming the upcoming motion picture "The Proposal" with Sandra Bullock in Boston.


White is a pet enthusiast and animal welfare activist and works with a number of animal organizations including the Los Angeles Zoo Commission, the Morris Animal Foundation, and Actors & Others for Animals. According to the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden's "ZooScape" Member Newsletter, Betty White has donated nearly $100,000 to the Zoo in the month of April, 2008 alone.

In January 2007, she became the official spokesperson for 1800PetMeds and was featured in their new-for-2007 advertising campaign.

Awards, honors and nominations

White has won five Emmys, three American Comedy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990), and two Viewers For Quality Television Awards. She was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1995 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6747 Hollywood Boulevard alongside the star of late husband Allen Ludden.





Further reading

  • Tucker, David C. The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007.

External links

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